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Back to mono: The Ramones’ debut album is 40 years old and it’s the best release of 2016
09.13.2016
11:33 pm

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Heroes
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Punk

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The Ramones


 
In the mid-70s I started a reggae band called The Ravers. I was living in Boulder, Colorado and had recently discovered The Wailers, Toots and The Maytals, The Mighty Diamonds, Burning Spear and the rest of the great groups coming out of Jamaica. For me, rock and roll had died along with Hendrix, Morrison and Brian Jones. There was some light in the darkness radiating from David Bowie, Roxy Music, T Rex and Sparks but reggae gave me what I had been missing: short energetic songs with great hooks and messages of rebellion. For a year or so, The Ravers played a handful of clubs to small audiences who couldn’t quite wrap their heads around an all-white reggae band that played with a more aggressive attitude than our Jamaican idols. The original material was more profane than sacred with a rocksteady rhythm that didn’t swing as much as lurch. I didn’t know it at the time but the reggae experiment was just a launching pad for something that was a better fit for me as a songwriter and front man.

In 1976 I had my musical “come to Jesus” moment. The Ramones’ debut album had just been released and as soon as the vinyl landed on my turntable and the band came roaring through the speakers, my life’s calling shifted gears and I decided to start a loud, insane rock band. I called my bandmates and scheduled a meeting. That night I played The Ramones for David, Artie, Jon and whoever our drummer was at the time. These guys were terrific musicians who were listening to shit like Steely Dan and The Grateful Dead. Hearing The Ramones made them visibly uncomfortable. They didn’t get it. They thought I’d lost my mind. But I played the album again. And then again. And suddenly smiles were breaking out on their faces and they were beginning to pick up on the musical intelligence underneath the goofy lyrics. The relentless guitar surging over a skin tight rhythm section was superficially simple but actually very hard to execute. This was a different kind of virtuosity, one that was just as exacting as any flashy soloing of the bands that my group admired. I picked up the tonearm and we picked up our guitars and started playing our first Ramones-inspired riffs. Within a week we went from being a bad reggae band to being a pretty good garage band. We didn’t call it punk until someone else did.

Playing our brand of fast and loud rock and roll went over like the proverbial turd in a punchbowl in hippie dippy Boulder. Which just made me more determined. We played country bars and Italian restaurants. I’d take my clothes off and leap into the audience. Half the set was made up on the spot. I’d turn to the band and scream “give me an E” and we’d start vamping. I ran my vocals through an Echoplex and would holler gibberish. We developed a small group of dedicated fans. Weirdos and outcasts. One of whom, Eric, later changed his name to Jello Biafra.
 

The author in the throes of rock and roll dementia. Photo: Patty Heffley.
 
When The Ramones came to Denver, Colorado in 1977 to play a tiny club with the totally misleading name Ebbets Field, The Ravers were hired to be their opening act. Being the only punk band in the Rocky Mountain region had its upside. I was going to meet The Ramones. I was excited. On the other hand, I was also scared shitless of being crushed by the band we were opening for.

The night of the gig we were onstage covering songs by The Dictators, The Stooges, Tuff Darts and some 60s garage rockers as well as our original material. The venue was tiny with steeply raked bleacher seating. The front row was about three feet from the stage. The Ravers were playing “California Sun” (which The Ramones had covered) when The Ramones entered the room and walked right in front of the stage carrying guitar cases and staring at the ground. I swear Johnny was smirking. We probably looked like rubes. In that moment, I felt like one.

After our set we went to the dressing room we were sharing with The Ramones. The vibe was deeply uncomfortable. Nobody talked. I tried. The Ramones, with the exception of a Ritalin-deprived Dee Dee, were tight-lipped and sulking. The only thing anybody said for the half hour I was with the band was when Johnny started talking about an upcoming CBGB gig with The Cramps. He thought they sucked. Big time. He couldn’t wait to annihilate them. You could tell he knew what the rest of the world would eventually find out: That the Ramones were pound for pound the greatest rock band to walk the earth. Johnny was a competitor. All or nothing.

Two girlfriends were traveling with the band. One sat silently reading a novelization of Ilsa: She Wolf Of The SS while the other was reading an Eerie comic book. Both wore leather mini-skirts with fishnet stockings and the same motorcycle jackets as the band. The whole thing was like a movie. That’s when it hit me. The Ramones were actors. This was theater. And it was perfect. Seamless.

The Ramones’ performance that night in Denver in front of about 50 people had for those of us who were there much the same impact that The Sex Pistols had in Manchester in June of 1976 when they played to 29 people, most of whom went on to form groups of their own like Joy Division, Siouxsie And The Banshees and The Buzzcocks. From the moment they hit the stage and struck their first chord, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy were sublimely intense… and loud. Far and away the loudest band I’d ever heard. It was like an airplane landing in the room. But despite the massive wall of sound there were nuances in the music that came through. The Ramones could start and stop on a dime, commanded deft time changes, condensing and sculpting pure energy into a barrage of electricity that was surgical in its precision. The music was haiku simple but like haiku it contained enormity. I hate to say it for fear of sounding pretentious but The Ramones were avant-garde, revolutionary, modernists. They took traditional rock and roll forms and compressed and distilled them to their very essence. What Warhol was doing in the visual arts, The Ramones were doing in music: returning the marvelous to the familiar. Rock music had become dull, bloated and unnecessary. It was competing with itself. The Ramones threw themselves against the barricades and a surge of fresh air entered the sphere of rock and roll and for those of us who consider the music as vital as blood, this was deliverance.

The Ramones may have been loud, bratty provocateurs but they were also spiritual. Their songs were mantras, chants that summoned the dormant gods of rock and roll and transformed audiences. Whether you’re a Deadhead, a metalhead or jazzbo, you’ve been there—in that moment when time stops and the skies open up. The Ramones were the answer to their own question: What is rock and roll? 

Eric—Jello—had come to the gig posing as my roadie so he could get into the 21 and over show. In a photo snapped that night, Eric had to hand his beer off to Joey so there would be no evidence of underage drinking.
 

 
In an interview from a few years ago, Jello described the what it was like to see The Ramones at the tender age of 17:

Out come these four, kinda degenerate looking guys in leather jackets—which is something you didn’t see very often then. One chord on Johnny’s guitar, and we knew it was going to be louder than anyone of us were prepared for. We braced ourselves and instead of being goofy, the Ramones were one of the most powerful experiences of my entire life.

We were three feet from the stage and forced to sit down, of course. Not only were they really, really good, but half the fun was turning around and watching the Ebbets Field, country-rock glitterati, the guys with the neatly trimmed beards, Kenny Loggins-feathered hair and corduroy jackets, with patches on the elbows, as well as the cocaine cowboys and their women, with their 1920s suits with flowers, because that’s what Joni Mitchell was wearing at the time—they looked horrified. They had nowhere to go. Because Ebbets Field was so small, you couldn’t go hang out in the lobby because there wasn’t one. They just had to endure the Ramones

.

Jello pretty much nails it. The Ramones rearranged our rock and roll DNA that night and we would never be the same.  Almost 40 years later my sense memory of that night makes the hair on my body go erect. And at 65 years old any erection is a good thing.

Phil Gammage was also there that night. Phil went on to form Certain General in 1980, a highly regarded post-punk band that played every reputable rock venue in NYC and Europe. In 1977 he was living in Boulder and going to the University iof Colorado. One of a handful of outlaws at that respectable school. Here’s what Phil has to say about the Ebbets Field show:

Ebetts Field was a small club in downtown Denver that featured a variety of jazz, rock, blues, and country national touring music acts. Bands not big time enough to play the area’s theaters or arenas. I had already gone there a few times before when I drove down from Boulder that early spring weeknight to see The Ravers and The Ramones play.

The Ramones had so much discipline in their playing. There were no loose ends, no extra chords or stray drum beats. No slow songs, no long songs. No meandering jams. No prog rock style music frills. No encore. No rapping with the audience between songs. Their musical ideas were revolutionary. That night no one else within a thousand miles of Denver was playing music like that. I was hearing and seeing something very ground breaking and I knew it. Somehow, out of my curiosity I had found my way to be in that club that night to experience The Ramones, and I felt I was one of the ‘chosen few’ to be lucky enough to be there.

It would be the only time I would ever see The Ramones play live. I had numerous chances later, but there was something just so right and so perfect about that night in Denver. I didn’t want to mess with that mojo.

I kept The Ravers on my radar during the next few weeks. I wanted to see them play again, wanted to check out their scene. They were all a few years older than me, but they seemed like good people and approachable. Then one afternoon I picked up The Daily Camera newspaper and in the arts section was shocked to read the headline “The Ravers Say Goodbye to Boulder.” My fave local band was leaving town for good and heading to New York.

But that’s another story…

 
Another University of Colorado student Chris Murdock was at Ebbets Field that night. Chris too was moved by rock’s higher powers and went from observer to participant in the punk explosion when he formed legendary Colorado rockers The DefeX. The DefeX, like The Ravers, made the pilgrimage to CBGB. The acid test for any young band was whether they were gutsy enough to expose themselves to NYC’s 1970s trial by fire. The DefeX were for real. Chris sent me these previously unpublished photos from The Ramones Ebbets gig. The sparse audience really does have that deer in the headlights look. Maybe it was shock and awe.
 

 

 

 

The Ravers.
 
Steve Knutson was also at the show. Steve formed one of the first punk bands in Colorado, The Front. He also worked at legendary Denver record store Wax Trax (yes that Wax Trax). This is such a cool anecdote. “After school.”

After school me and a friend picked up The Ramones at the airport, and drove them straight to Wax Trax. They loved the store and bought quite a few records. Johnny’s girlfriend was wearing a raincoat and I think nothing else. He kept asking her to cover up in the car. They wanted us to help them buy pot but we had no idea how to facilitate that. My memory is that Johnny played through double Marshall stacks at max volume. It was incredible. But I couldn’t sleep afterwards for a few days out of excitement and my ears were ringing really badly. Unforgettable.

 

Photo: Steve Knutson.
 
Miracles actually occurred that night. From Andy Snow:

I was at that show too with Phil Gammage, and yes, it was loud and completely rugged. After I left I realized my kidney stones had miraculously been sonicated!

 

Andy’s kidney stones.

I don’t write reviews. I tell you what I like and hope I do it convincingly enough that you’ll go out of your way to check out whatever I’m writing about. There will be plenty written about The Ramones 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. As someone who was there in the beginning of what was to become known as punk rock, it is impossible for me to be objective about the scene and how it altered my life. Writing about The Ramones dispassionately would be like dropping acid and Thorazine at the same time. What’s the point? There’s only been a handful of rock writers who write like the music feels. I believe the subject of the writer is always the writer no matter what the subject is. And when it comes to rock and roll, there is no topic more likely to be encrusted with a writer’s literary love juice. The Ramones debut album is second only to Love’s Forever Changes when it comes to albums that have never sounded less exciting to me than the first day I heard them. And both albums have been released in the same week in state of the art analog remasters. Vinyl is the new black.
 

 
So what do we have here? Three CDs, a book and a vinyl record. The CDs consist of a stereo remaster of the album and live sets from L.A. club the Roxy in 1976. Really good stuff.

But, for me, the heart and the soul of the package: a newly re-mixed and mastered mono version on 180 gram vinyl. This splendid mono release was produced by the album’s original producer Craig Leon at Abbey Road studios. Mixed from the original analog master tape, the record has a presence, a melt-your-faceness that will hit you like a tuning fork struck by the hand of God.
 

The Ramones with Rob Freeman and Craig Leon at the board mixing The Ramones first album in 1976.
 
In an email exchange, Craig described the process of remastering the stereo and remixing the album to his original mono specs:

The stereo version is a remastering of the original two track mix that we did on the last day in Plaza Sound. When we mastered the 1976 album this was altered to try and get as much level as I could on the vinyl and to apply compression simulating the “secret weapon” compressor that only the EMI studio at Abbey Road had at that time. I used it on the remastering this time rather than duplicate the one I used on the original vinyl. The compressor is an EMI modified Altec 124. It gives an incredible “in your face” presence and is easily recognizable as one of the main sounds of the Beatles recordings. George Martin and the engineers used it on almost everything the Beatles did. Wonder how Paul’s bass sounded so punchy and huge…that’s it. The whole mix is run through that. The mono is a remix recreated from my original notes and referenced against early monitor mixes that I did in ‘76. On the early monitor mixes the placement is virtually mono. The overall mix is done partially through an EMI TG12345 (great model number for this record!) console, API modules and the EMI Altec compressor. At that time the band and I wanted to go for two releases… a stereo that was extreme and attention getting but also showed the triangular approach to how the band would be set up live. Bass on one side drums in the middle guitar on the other. And a large impact mono. Like the dual versions of albums from the 60s. Of course this was deemed to be impractical because mono was “dead” in 1976. No one had mono players any more (at least in the U.S.). I find that as the years went on and different remasterings were done, the intention of the original album got diluted quite a bit. I’m really thrilled that Warner Music with a great push from Mickey Leigh and Dave Frey, gave me the opportunity to restore our intentions on this set.

There have been a handful of critics who have described the mono remix and master to be “non-essential.” These numbnuts have clearly not listened to the mono mix on vinyl. My bet is they’re listening to digital files through some shitty computer speakers. Listening to The Ramones mono version on vinyl is like placing your head against the band’s collective chest: You can hear the heartbeat of the music. And it pounds!  My stereo system is comprised of a Thorens turntable, a solid vintage Technics receiver and Klipsch Heresy speakers. Play the record through a decent analog set up and you too will discover just how absolutely essential this slab of vinyl is. It holds it own against any of the recently released Beatles’ mono masters, and they are absolutely exquisite sounding.

The Ramones never referred to themselves as punks. They were a rock band with a unique vision who considered themselves to be part of a long tradition going back to Eddie Cochran through The Who, The Stones, The Stooges, David Bowie and every great rock band that kept it simple and pure. It’s a shame that Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy didn’t live to see their music mixed and mastered in a studio where The Beatles made their greatest albums. The Ramones wanted to be rock stars. And they were. No band has deserved it more.

The Ravers left for New York City a few months after opening for The Ramones. We had to get to Manhattan and see what was going on. We changed our name to The Nails. We played CBGB, Max’s, Danceteria, Pep Lounge etc. We got a major label deal and made records. I’d occasionally run into Joey Ramone at one of the rock clubs in the city. We were both drinking heavily in those years and the conversions were drunken and brief. I would bring up the Denver gig and he’d nod and mumble something. For me, that gig was monumental. For Joey, not so much.

This tall lanky guy that nervously hid behind his hair and slumped against the world like a drunken saint was not what you’d call heroic. But Joey was a hero to me. He and his band represented everything I expect from and respect about rock and roll: The Ramones stayed true to their vision, they didn’t sell out, they kept doing what they did best against the massive complacency of a music industry that was too small to contain them, but arrogant enough to dismiss them. It took Rolling Stone magazine 40 years to put them on a cover. 40 years for the band to earn a gold record. Punks might wail “who gives a shit?” Well, I can tell you the Ramones gave a shit. The Ramones wrote hits that never became hits. Dozens of them. Anybody who tells you they started a band just for the “art” of it is full of shit. Tommy may have initially conceived of The Ramones as a pop art concept (a latter day Warhol/Velvet Underground iteration) but the rest of the band were in it for keeps. The Ramones were conceptual as all get out, and smarter than most people realized, but three quarters of the band wanted to be part of the rock and roll pantheon along with Marc Bolan, John Lennon and Sky Saxon. And now they finally are. But they’re fucking dead. And that’s the sad part.

Tommy was the first to leave the band and the last to leave the planet. His vision of a one-off gutter version of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable ended up touring and recording for 20 years. He created a beautifully brutal monster.
 

 
Needless to say, I can’t share an analog version of the mono record with DM readers. Just go out and buy it. It’s worth every penny. And if you don’t have an analog stereo system at home, then this album is a good reason to get one.

Craig Leon and everybody involved in the making of The Ramones 40th Anniversary edition deserve all the love that rock fans can bestow upon them. And Rhino gets a shout out for being smart enough to put the mono remix on vinyl. What a gift.
 

 
******

I know people like to watch. Here’s what I consider to be the only live footage of The Ramones that comes close to communicating how powerful they were in the flesh. The Ramones live at The Rainbow, December 31, 1977. Play it fucking loud!!!
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
The Secret Confessions of an Addict
06.29.2016
06:11 pm

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Advertorial

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Rebtel


 
In the latest episode of VICE’s outrageous Confessions of A… series (brought to you by Rebtel) a self-admitted boozehound and drug addict gives the unedited lowdown on his unbridled consumption of legal and illegal substances. Not everyone can handle their dope and liquor and this guy doesn’t even bother trying. Why should he? His poor suffering girlfriend can pay for his lowlife lifestyle. That’s the ticket: find a meal ticket! He even steals her legit pain medication and is okay with watching her suffer so he can get high! “Boyfriend of the Year” material, he’s not.

Wearing a mask, hoodie, and with a robotically disguised voice, this articulate loser shares the details of his extreme form of self-medication. Thus cloaked, our dedicated devotee of druggy oblivion doesn’t hold back, saying things that no one would (or should) admit to on camera otherwise. You’ll almost feel sorry for this selfish POS, but you’ll probably feel more sorry for those who have to put up with him.

This video was brought to you by Rebtel. Speak freely.
 

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Future Forward event brings 21st Century Futurism to Los Angeles: RSVP for free tickets here
06.24.2016
04:17 pm

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Toyota Prius


 
The Creators Project, a global network dedicated to the celebration of creativity, arts and technology has partnered with the all-new Toyota Prius to present the Future Forward event series. To that end, they commissioned a set of original works—elaborate technological installations by internationally renowned studios—to premiere as part of a nationwide event series that launched in Spring 2016. Two events, one held in New York and another in Chicago have already taken place. Next comes the Los Angeles event which will be on display at NeueHouse Hollywood showcasing the work of forward thinkers, artists, architects, designers, engineers and inventors who take ideas of speed, change, and technology into their practice.

A futuristic chandelier that moves in response to heat.

A star-shaped space that envelopes you in metal, mirrors and light.

An organic, living wall that reacts to your motions.

If you’d like to experience these innovations that redefine futurism for yourself, the June 25 event in Los Angeles is open to the public. RSVP here.

NeueHouse Hollywood 6121 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90028

@ToyotaUSA
@TheCreatorsProject
 

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My God: Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung’ really IS an album that you MUST hear before you die
04.21.2016
11:11 pm

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Music

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Jethro Tull


Burton Silverman’s iconic cover portrait of ‘Aqualung,’ the wheezing, shabby homeless man ‘eyeing little girls with bad intent’ who happens to look a lot like Ian Anderson

In 2016, Jethro Tull is one of those utterly amazing bands that is—sadly—very difficult to explain to those for whom they seem to hold no obvious appeal. Although once one of the very biggest concert draws in the world of music—and don’t get me wrong, they’re still a popular group—their fanbase is getting older each year and I don’t think it’s exactly getting any bigger with the passing of time. But for the sake of “the young people” who are reading this I’m going to try to get across why I think Jethro Tull are so great and why they deserve your attention. The occasion is Rhino’s re-release of their classic 1971 longplayer Aqualung, an album that I’m absolutely nuts about, on a 2 CD/2 DVD box set. I hope my enthusiasm will be contagious enough that you’ll give it a listen yourself.

I canvassed some of the other Dangerous Minds contributors about their opinions of Aqualung: Editor-at-large Marc Campbell relayed that he remembered “the scuzziest hippies smoking skunk weed and listening to that piece of crap.” Fair enough. He was there. Our Chris Bickel (who wasn’t) wondered “who the fuck is the audience for this jester-hat-wearing Renaissance Faire bullshit?” while acknowledging that its multi-platinum record status indicated there must have been quite a large one. My wife sees Jethro Tull as the sort of group that “old bikers listen to at keg parties in Cincinnati,” in the same category with say, Steppenwolf and Howie Pyro cited the time when I tried to force their Benefit album on him and how this resulted in “some kinda kneejerk anti-Tull punk reaction inside of me.”
 

 
All of these reactions are perfectly understandable. If you don’t really know what Jethro Tull are all about, being confronted with this scraggly-looking comically leering hirsute and freaky Dickensian hobo-sage character wearing thigh-high boots and a glittering codpiece playing the flute is simply confusing in 2016 isn’t it? Don’t worry I’m here to help you. Please try to keep an open mind, won’t you?

Until not all that long ago, I can’t really claim to have had much more than a passing familiarity with Jethro Tull’s music myself. Although one of the very first 45s that I ever bought was their “Bungle in the Jungle” in 1974, for the most part I just knew some of the greatest hits. A couple years back, a publicist at Rhino threw Steven Wilson’s 5.1 surround revisioning of their 1970 Benefit album in the package with something else that I’d asked for. I’ll listen to anything Steven Wilson has remixed for 5.1 and I was utterly floored by Benefit. I had never really thought all that much about Jethro Tull frankly, it was more about Wilson’s participation than anything else that had piqued my curiosity. Because I had no expectations one way or the other, Benefit hit me like a bolt from the blue. I was completely smitten with that album pretty much upon the first listen. My initial reaction was “Wow! How did a group this big never truly get on my radar before?” (Howie’s right: If you came of age during punk, Jethro Tull were simply a dinosaur band you avoided and that’s the straightforward answer).
 

Jethro Tull, stand up guys

I gorged myself on that album and fanned out through their back catalog. I liked their second effort Stand Up quite a bit and I also got way into their Living in the Past compilation. Their first album This Was I was less enthusiastic about—it’s just a basic blues thing, music they’d already outgrown before its release, hence the title—but the one that came after Benefit—that’s Aqualung—blew my doors off. If you consider yourself a fan of say, King Crimson, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa or even Nick Cave (who named one of his sons Jethro he was such a fan) you might have the same reaction I did: “HOW did I miss out on this?”

Obviously any discussion of Jethro Tull begins—and ends—with the group’s leader, the singular Ian Anderson, a rather brainy and idiosyncratic figure surely seen in retrospect (if not necessarily at the time) as the unlikeliest of arena rock gods. Anderson always read very “old” to me. At the time Aqualung was recorded he was just 23, but what a wizened old 23 he seemed to be. Some people are born old men, I guess, but by this age his lyrics were already becoming quite dark and deep. Aqualung‘s brooding, philosophically sophisticated subject matter included seeing homelessness people and doing nothing about it; how whatever kernel of truth there had been in Christianity had been co-opted by the Church of England and a cynical ruling class; and in “Locomotive Breath”—one of their signature numbers—humanity’s mad dash towards Hobbesian overpopulation.

Aqualung‘s liner notes included the following statement, an audacious sentiment to express in the early 1970s:

In the beginning Man created God;
And in the image of Man created he him.

2 And Man gave unto God a multitude of names,
that he might be Lord over all the earth when it was suited to Man.

3 And on the seven millionth day Man rested
and did lean heavily on his God and saw that it was good.

4 And Man formed Aqualung of the dust of the ground,
and a host of others likened unto his kind.

5 And these lesser men Man did cast into the void. And some were burned;
and some were put apart from their kind.

6 And Man became the God that he had created
and with his miracles did rule over all the earth.

7 But as these things did come to pass,
the Spirit that did cause Man to create his God
lived on within all men: even within Aqualung.

8 And Man saw it not.

9 But for Christ’s sake he’d better start looking.

 

 
Here’s a stunning rendition of ‘My God’ (from ‘Aqualung’) performed in front of a crowd of 600,000 people at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival
 

 

 
Plenty more Jethro Tull after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Celebrity boozehounds hawking hooch: Dennis Hopper, Merle Haggard, Redd Foxx, Sean Connery & more

Print ad featuring Merle Haggard (RIP) for George Dickel Whisky
Print ad featuring Merle Haggard (RIP) for George Dickel Whisky, 1986.
 
Most of the time when our favorite musicians or celebrities appear as though they have “sold-out,” we all breathe a collective sigh of sadness. Such as the time that John Lydon shilled for Country Life Butter (the proceeds from which the crafty Lydon used to fund the creation of PiL’s 2012 album, This is PiL. Take that haters!), or when a part of you died after seeing Bob Dylan in a strange television commercial for Victoria’s Secret in 2004. As was the case with Lydon, it’s not always a bad thing. I mean, even I couldn’t hate on The Cure’s “Pictures of You” (from the band’s brilliant 1989 album, Disintegration) playing in the background of a Hewlett-Packard commercial back in 2003.
 
Dennis Hopper and John Huston for Jim Beam
Dennis Hopper and John Huston for Jim Beam.
 
But back to the point of this post—if there is a more perfect pairing when it comes to commercial endorsements than badass celebrities and musicians pimping out booze, I do not know what it is. And I’m quite sure that many of these vintage ads will have you checking your watch to see if it’s already noon. However, if you’re like me and go by the guideline that it’s always noon somewhere, then congratulations! Because you’re probably on your second Bloody Mary, rationalizing that it’s okay because it’s almost a meal as long as it’s served with olives and celery. Tons of vintage ads for Jim Beam, Smirnoff, Colt 45 and other party liquids, held lovingly by folks such as Merle Haggard (pictured at the top of this post, RIP), Chuck Berry, Dennis Hopper (seen above with director John Huston), Telly Savalas, and two badass ladies—Joan Crawford and Julie Newmar—follow.
 
Julie Newmar in an ad for Smirnoff Vodka, 1966
Julie Newmar in an ad for Smirnoff Vodka, 1966.
 
More celebrity boozehounds hawking hooch (say that in a slurred voice) after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The Secret Confessions of a Dominatrix
02.29.2016
03:05 pm

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Advertorial
Sex

Tags:
BDSM


 
Have you ever wanted to be able to ask a professional dominatrix anything? Anything at all about the private kinks of the rich and powerful financial elites?

That’s what happens in the latest episode of VICE’s outrageous Confessions of A... series: Wearing a mask, hoodie, and with a robotically disguised voice, a professional dominatrix in NYC shares the details of the torturous techniques she uses to help “de-stress” her high-powered Wall Street clientele.

And if you don’t know what “CBT” is… you’re about to find out. Ouch!

This video was brought to you by Rebtel.
 

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What the hell is this ad even trying to communicate?
02.05.2016
12:17 pm

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Advertorial

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advertising


 
Advertising is supposed to be a creative endeavor for creative people. People who are so creative that they’re actually called “Creatives” professionally. What they actually do isn’t merely described as creative (an adjective), creative is also used as a noun (as in the creative.) They’re creative folks, these Creatives who are creating this (supposedly) creative creative. Got it?

Or are these Creatives really creating such creative creative, after all? As anyone who has ever toiled away in the trenches of the creative field (raises hand, ashamed) can tell you, there is precious little actual creativity that goes on in the advertising industry. Why? Because of the Creatives. Their creative is seldom very creative. The dirty secret of today’s Madison Avenue—listen up, all you would-be Don Drapers—is that creating actually creative creative (on the part of the Creatives, I mean) is frowned upon by the people upstairs. Decisions need to be justified up a chain of command—and clever ideas get hammered into fuckstick shitty ones as the creative moves along the assembly line of the corporate “creative process” (and yes, those are ironic quotation marks).

At the top of the Creatives salary range is usually someone so exasperatingly stupid and ridiculously out of touch that you just want to scream. This absurd corporate clown who wants the soundtrack to be “one of those great old Motown songs!” and thinks that this is an original idea or who wants to scrap something that’s already been shot and edited because “the Moon here looks too much like a 1970s-style moon.” It might be the actual Moon in the sky that this salary-justifying executive plonker is talking about, but this is the level of upper level Creative one tends to encounter in a career spent eating shit, smiling and saying how good that yummy shit sandwich tastes. You play it safe if you want to stay employed and keep sucking at the teat of the Capitalist system. It’s much easier that way, bucko. Wise up! It’s not your “art” and who the fuck cares anyway if every bit of everything that was good gets squeezed out of the Motown catalog to successfully advertise Kellogg’s Raisin Bran?

This is why most advertising SUCKS. This is why most people simply tune ads out. Ad blockers? I don’t need no stinking ad blocker! I got me an ad blocker right here in my head, baby!

But where was I? Oh fuck it…. Well, here’s another ad. But a very creative one. I think you’ll like it.

At the very end they tell you what the actual service or product is or does, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for you.

Idiots.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’ is the best classic rock box set of the 2015 Christmas season
12.07.2015
09:32 pm

Topics:
Advertorial
Music

Tags:
Fleetwood Mac


 
When I was a boy, Fleetwood Mac were “the enemy.” I just hated their soft “stadium rock” and you simply could not escape them on radio at the time. I was into David Bowie, the Velvet Underground and the Sex Pistols. None of my musical heroes had long hair or beards. None of that hippie shit for me, 9-year old budding rock snob that I was.

Then, as it happened, a few years later I got a cassette tape of their Tusk album sent to me by mistake by Columbia House, which for those of you too young to remember was a “Twelve albums for a penny!” deal advertised in TV Guide and the Sunday paper. Once you got your initial dozen albums, you had to buy like six more at full list price with exorbitant postage and handling charges tacked on. Each month they’d send you a printed catalog along with a card that you had to put a stamp on and return refusing the automatic selection of the month or else they’d send you whatever “popular” album they were featuring and send you a bill for it. (This is how I came to own Ted Nugent’s Free for All, Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs and Jethro Tull’s Songs from the Wood.) Although I didn’t actually decide to purchase Tusk and as a two-record set with the extra high list price of $15.98 (a small fortune back then) it was an especially galling thing to get a bill for, I had to admit that I was crazy about the title track, which was on the radio at least once every few hours throughout 1980. I had one of those tape decks that would play to the end of one side and then the heads would flip over and play the other. What went from me playing “Tusk” (the song) over and over and over again ultimately became me listening to the entire album over and over again. During an an era where I mostly listened to XTC, Talking Heads, the Clash and things like that, I really got deeply into Tusk. I know every crevice, nook and cranny of that record. I think it’s an absolute masterpiece, sonically, from a songwriting, vocal, production and performance point of view, the total package, it was the creation of a group of truly great musicians at the height of their powers. With a practically unlimited budget.

A big part of Tusk‘s mythology has to do with the fact that it was the most expensive album ever recorded, with the final tab running over a million dollars. It was recorded in “Studio D” of the legendary Village Recorder in West Los Angeles. Much of the outrageous expense was due to the studio being kitted out to the group’s exacting specification, including 72 digital faders and an exact replica of Lindsey Buckingham’s home bathroom, where one can suppose he liked to… think? God knows how much more money was spent on cocaine. Only the accountants and the dealers and the dealers’ accountants and the dealers’ Maserati dealers know for sure.

Last year I had a chance to tour “the Village” and I’ve been in the very rooms where Fleetwood Mac were holed up for better than a year recording Tusk. I stood in the vocal booth where Stevie Nicks lit candles and incense and laid Oriental rugs and pillows. I imagined the exotic instruments and wall coverings, the actual tusks and the shrunken heads that sat around the room. I imagined the feasts fit for rock’s richest royalty that must have been served there day after day. It was a fascinating superstar “inner sanctum” for a fan to be allowed to enter. (And yes, I saw Lindsey’s personal crapper, but I did not use it.)

With the new 5.1 surround mix of Tusk available on Rhino’s new box set 5CD/1DVD/2LP deluxe release of the classic album, you can hear how at least some of that money was spent. Sounding better than it ever has, Tusk in surround is exactly the sonic revelation that I hoped for and wanted it to be.

When I get a box set, I want to lose myself in it. Smoke a joint, sit back, relax and listen to music. Not passively. I want to really get into it. Actively listen. When it’s over I want to play it again. And again. And over again. Folks, believe me when I tell you that I spent all weekend stoned, laying on the couch listening to Tusk to the exclusion of practically all other activities. I played all the outtakes and alt mixes (the way the title number was birthed is worth listening to) and the great live material from the Tusk tour of 79/80. It’s all good stuff and it has some of the more engrossing liner notes I’ve read in a long while, nice packaging too… but the 5.1 surround mix. Oh man. If you care about such things—and you should—it’s a truly peak experience when it comes to achieving an Earth-shattering high fidelity eargasm. “Sara,” the classic Stevie Nicks ballad, sounds like the gossamer and fine lace Stevie was probably wearing when she sang it. Christine McVie’s “Honey Hi” and “Think About Me” are pure pop perfection as is Nicks’ stunning “Beautiful Child.” Although I’m reasonably sure that most of the vocal and instrumental performances on Tusk were recorded individually and then stacked up on the mixing board and diced and sliced by Buckingham, when you hear those incredible harmonies coming at you from all corners of the room, each voice with a speaker to itself, it’s as if you are in Studio D of the Village and standing in the room as Tusk is being played live.

Tusk was always one of those albums that got pulled out for stereo demonstrations at the hifi stores of its day like a cliché, but until you have heard Ken Caillat’s stunning surround mix of the title track, you haven’t experienced the best of how a rock classic like this can sound reimagined for a 21st century audio system. “Tusk” starts out with the loopy drum loop played on a box and builds up to a thunderous and dramatic climax with the USC marching band’s participation taking it all to an outlandish level of sonic excess and gloss. The way the overdubbed voices and layered guitars leap out of the speakers is damned impressive. One is also really impressed by Lindsey Buckingham’s lightning fast finger-picking/strumming style as the 5.1 surround format puts a lot of space around what he was doing. The “wow factor” here is off the scale. I could listen to that one song for hours on repeat.

All in all, Rhino’s new deluxe Tusk box set is the classic rock box set of the 2015 Christmas season. No one who finds it under their tree on Christmas morning is going to be disappointed. The definitive edition of an essential album. A+
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Loaded’: The Velvet Underground in 5.1 surround, win a free box set from Rhino
11.03.2015
12:05 pm

Topics:
Advertorial
Music

Tags:
Velvet Underground


 
Here’s the TL;DR version: If you are an aficionado of 5.1 surround music, run, do not walk, to buy the new Velvet Underground Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition box set NOW. Don’t hesitate. It’s fucking amazing.

For readers who want a more considered review, read on. Full disclosure, this is a sponsored post, but I can promise you that what you’re reading is 100% the way I really feel.

I had been very, very anxious to hear the newly reloaded Velvet Underground Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition box set. I’m a big fan of surround music and I am a big fan of the Velvet Underground, so the idea that I would get to hear Loaded, one of my favorite albums of all time in 5.1 surround seemed too good to be true. I recently moved and made a point not to set up my audio system until I had said VU box set in hand. I wanted it to be the first thing I listened to in the new place. For days I watched the mail like a hungry hawk. It arrived late yesterday morning. Around 5pm, I started setting up my audio system, calibrated everything for the new room it was in, etc., and then just as I was about to toke up, sit down and listen, the amp went into protection mode, shut down and an error message told me to “check speaker wires.” Shit!

It took me five incredibly annoying hours of troubleshooting until I found the culprit, a tiny splinter of barely visible copper wiring that was touching between two poles on one of the speakers. I had to remove it with tweezers it was so small. In any case, I mention this because while I was removing the speakers and adding them back in one at time to figure out the source of my problem, starting with the center speaker, I was playing the 5.1 surround mix of Loaded and it was very interesting to hear the component parts of an album that I thought I was molecularly familiar with in that new way.
 

 
And that’s the point of 5.1 surround audio, to hear something “classic” with fresh ears, like you’re hearing it for the first time. Well, I just listened to it twice this morning, all the way through, and here are my initial thoughts. As it would be pointless for me to “expound” on Loaded and try to come up with something new and profound to say about it, I won’t insult my reader’s intelligence, because honestly who cares what I think about this classic? (I don’t care what you think either.) I just wanted to give my opinion of “the product” here.

So on the count of “hearing something old again with fresh ears,” they certainly did right by Loaded. The mixes, done by Kevin Reeves at Republic/4th Floor Studios in New York, are very well realized and he’s made some choices—very good ones, creatively, I hasten to add—that I think many a producer would not have made. There’s somewhat of an orthodoxy when it comes to mixing for 5.1 that some mixers fall into—favoring the fronts is how I’d put it—that Reeves wisely avoids. Lou Reed and Doug Yule’s lead vocal tracks are pushed up high in the mix, making Yule’s voice sound more innocent, for instance, while Reed’s vocals are so well presented here that you can practically hear the spittle spraying the microphone. Nuance galore is revealed. The lead vocals often appear “bare” in the center speakers, but other than that, Reeves really endeavored to truly “surround” the listener. The Association meets street corner doo wop backing vocals are given a full sonic spread. The wall of guitars in “Rock and Roll” is MIND-BLOWING coming at you from all sides. “Sweet Jane” sounds so damned crisp and you’re right smack in the middle of it. I thought it was a thrilling ride from start to finish. By the time it ended with “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” I felt like I was listening to the saddest song of all time. (I’ve always loved that song, but hearing it in 5.1 was like a religious experience.)

Best archival release of the year so far, hands down (and I haven’t even listened to anything other than the 5.1 mix so far). If you’re a Velvets nut and into 5.1 surround, this is what you want for Christmas... if you can wait that long.

Or you can try to win one from Rhino:
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Ascent by DaVinci: The advanced portable vaporizer
06.25.2015
03:16 pm

Topics:
Advertorial

Tags:
marijuana
cannabis
vaporizer
DaVinci Ascent


 
Portable vaporizers have come a long way since they first started appearing in the marketplace around fifteen years ago. In those days, technology was still a bit limited, so manufacturers worked with what they had to piece together what was possible at the time, resulting in some seriously underwhelming offerings.

Early portables were either too bulky, too expensive or quite frankly - impractical. It wasn’t until about five years ago that the portable vaporizer revolution really began. Advancements in digital temperature control, battery efficiency, heating technology and mobile design sparked a sudden influx of new, cutting-edge portables from manufacturers across the globe.

Today, we’re witnessing unprecedented, sweeping marijuana reform from coast to coast. Even the staunchest opponents of the movement are finding it hard to deny the medical and economical benefits of decriminalization and legalization. That being said, folks in states like Colorado and Washington, where recreational use of marijuana permitted, are flocking to their local dispensaries and lighting up.

However, in today’s health-conscious society, folks are more aware than ever of the negative effects of smoking. It’s no secret that smoke inhalation can lead to serious respiratory issues, including lung cancer. When a flame is used to burn or ignite dry material, dangerous carcinogens and by-products are released from your herb into your lungs through the process of combustion. With the dangers of smoking now being widely publicized, many people are finding it as good a time as any to replace their old pipes and bongs with a new vaporizer. The issue for the consumer then becomes trying to figure out which vape to purchase.

Unfortunately, the process of choosing a portable vaporizer can be a somewhat disillusioning process, as the market has recently become flooded with re-branded, sub-par, cheaply made units that simply don’t perform as advertised. This has lead to many disenfranchised customers, whose initial vaporization experience could have turned out very differently if they had done a bit more research before making a purchase. That’s not to say there’s not some great units out there - quite the contrary. In fact, there are a handful of units that stand head and shoulders above the competition, with the Ascent being one of them.
 

 
Built by DaVinci to be the ideal option for vaping on-the-go, the Ascent’s ergonomic design lends itself well its overall portability. Designed to fit easily into any pocket, purse or bag, the Ascent redefines what it means for a vape to be truly portable. The simplicity and discreet nature of this device are overshadowed only by its unparalleled functionality and truly unique aesthetics.

While it seems most manufacturers are focusing more on profits than performance, DaVinci crafted the Ascent with both form and function in mind and created a vaporizer that doesn’t just look great, but works great as well too. Standing atop the new generation of high-tech portable devices, the Ascent features cutting-edge technology coupled with an artistically inspired design to create a portable unit that is second to none. By focusing on the core principles of vaporization, and not “in-your-face” marketing campaigns, DaVinci has gained the support of true vape enthusiasts across the globe.

Let’s talk specifications. The Ascent was one of the first vaporizers to utilize a glass on glass vapor delivery system, eliminating by-products which can be caused from metals or plastics - the result of which is pure, full-flavored vapor free of any impurities. Featuring advanced electronics and heating technology, the Ascent’s long wave infrared heating core is capable of adjusting and maintaining an accurate and consistent internal temperature during the entire course of your vape session. A uniquely designed glass lined ceramic filling chamber evenly distributes heat, ensuring your herbs are heating uniformly and efficiently.

Capable of reaching heats upwards of 430°F, the Ascent gives you option to experience with a wide range of temperatures, allowing you find your vaporizer “sweet-spot.” Just set the vape to any desired temperature via the OLED digital display, and in less than a minute, you’re ready to vape. To take a draw, simply slide the glass stem out of its enclosure where it’s safely stored during transit. Then, just sit back and immerse yourself in the pure, unadulterated vapor of the gods. Since your herbs are being heated below the point of combustion through the process of convection heating, no smoke is produced during the vaporization process.

If features such as advanced temperature control, extended battery life, overall portability, vapor quality/production and value are all things you’re looking for in a portable vaporizer, then the Ascent by DaVinci is a solid option. Check out their website at www.davincivaporizer.com.
 

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